Foothills law enforcement and educators go to class to learn how to keep students safe – WSOC TV

BURKE COUNTY. NC — As thousands of students took a break this summer, law enforcement and local educators have returned to the classroom to find new ways to keep children safe.

Channel 9’s Dave Faherty traveled to three counties in the North Carolina foothills where school is set to resume classes on Monday to learn about new safety measures area school districts are adding this year.

In Burke County, Channel 9 was in the building as active shooter training took place at the old Chesterfield Elementary School. Not only law enforcement were involved in the mock drill, but also dozens of teachers like Joanne Pieto.

“Just keeping the children in your care safe is our primary goal,” she said.

Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant said after the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, law enforcement in the area hammered a goal to their officers in responding to a possible shooting inside of a school.

“The first thing we need to do is stop the threat immediately,” he said. “And it is there, because we are in a rural area, that the agents can enter alone. And they can’t wait.

The district is also trying to stop someone from entering one of its schools.

At Freedom High School, Channel 9’s Faherty saw this firsthand. After walking through the front door, he couldn’t enter the rest of the school.

“Once you get in, you can’t walk through this door here because you have to be in a rush,” said Shanda Epley, the high school principal.

The district also discussed the importance of keeping all other doors secure with a no-open policy.

“We’ve spoken with our head custodian…our cafeteria staff…open house, we have deliveries,” said Charles Williams, principal of Valdese Elementary. “‘Protecting the Home’ is this year’s theme.”

Catawba County has added six school resource officers and the local SWAT team has now seen it could cut door hinges, which was a concern during the mass shooting in Uvalde.

They, too, conducted training exercises this summer, including one on the Catawba Valley Community College campus.

“Safety and security for our teachers. You know, they can’t learn if they don’t feel safe in the schools,” Catawba County Sheriff Don Brown said.

(WATCH BELOW: Possible bus delays at Hickory Public Schools due to lack of drivers)

Schools in Caldwell County already have Resource Officers in each school. They have now added ballistic shields, purchased with a state grant, to eleven schools in the district.

“So when we respond, we have that extra layer of protection to help us resolve the issue faster,” said Andrew Absher, one of the district’s resource officers.

Hickory Public Schools requires clear bags at all sporting events where they also installed metal detectors last year.

Earlier this week, Burke County hosted an emergency first aid course for district leaders.

Everyone hopes that the training and new equipment will never have to be used.

“I volunteered for this because I feel like these children are my children and I would like someone to take the initiative to protect them,” Pieto said.

(WATCH BELOW: Safety is a concern as students across Carolinas return to school)